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Customer Experience and the Managerial Firewall

Telstra has been singled out again for outages which are upsetting customers and driving them to look for alternatives. The promise of great customer service has not translated with this particular provider. In fact, customers have become so outraged that they are rejecting free data days, demanding refunds instead.

Telstra is not alone. Preaching high customer experience levels in many cases do not translate. The service provider, seriously under delivering.

It is what I’m calling the manager firewall effect. What is lead from the top is not filtering throughout the hierarchy. Promises made to customers about better servicing, not followed through into action.

Having a customer experience program in place is not enough! It does not equate to having an ideal customer experience. It doesn’t happen magically. Every staff member needs to live, breath and act in the customer’s best interest. In fact, having a customer experience program and not improving the service quality, will lead your business to a decline in customer service and advocacy.

In my experience, there are several reasons for the managerial firewalls. The key ones being:

  • Issue of managers and executives being out of touch with customers: When business leaders are not customers of the business themselves they often lose the ability to relate to the very customers they are serving.

Senior managers of a large alcohol beverage manufacturer were out of touch with their mainstream customers.   Most admitting that they would never drink certain brands they sold. Their view of customers drinking them were outdated stereotypes. References made to those customers, often derogatory in nature.

  • Tensions exist between maximising business profits and doing what’s best for that customer. I am exposed to these tensions constantly. When these tensions exist and leaders are out of touch with their customers, the solution is rarely in the best interest of customer.

It is no secret that financial planners can be paid up to 120% of first year Life Insurance premiums as commission on the sale. With additional trailing commissions for every year that the policy remains in place. So when customers are having a conversation with their planner and insurance products are pushed upon them to consider, do they really have their customers’ wellbeing in mind or their own?

  • Ignoring customer feedback. Collecting customer feedback in a myriad of ways and not acting on it, discourages customers even more. In providing a customer experience channel for feedback, your business is raising the expectations among customers that service quality will improve. When this does not eventuate, all your business has done is downgrade your customers’ view of the service. In effect it is like sending your customers a clear message: “We don’t care that much about you.”


Three things we have done with clients to overcome these customer service limitations:

  • Get middle managers and senior leaders to directly meet with customers. Provide them with a program whereby they get to empathise with customers and learn about their life hopes, dreams and aspirations along with hardships. Have them understand how their brand serves that customer.

There are a number of ways in which to achieve this. I have orchestrated this in both B2B (business to business), B2C (business to consumer) businesses. As well as in Service and Consumer goods based businesses. Executives and middle management return from these experiences, transformed. The customers’ ultimately benefit immensely from improved service design.

  • Take care when using modern techniques such as behavioural economics nudges to assess what is ‘right’ for the customer.

Biscuit manufacturers have been reducing the number of biscuits per pack over the years whilst keeping the price relatively steady. The more subtle nudge has included removing compartment mouldings in the biscuit tray. The mouldings originally served as serving size delineates. Research has demonstrated their removal has resulted in consumers frequently finishing the whole packet in one sitting rather than in two or three.

In the pursuit for great share from existing customers, these subtle yet effective nudges are effective for increasing business profits. The consumer buys more packets of biscuits. Yet are they in the best interest of the customers that consume them?

Businesses striving for a win-win between their profits and quality customer experience, are the same ones that see continued growth irrespective of economic conditions.

  • If you do not address true customer concerns and frustrations someone else will. The taxi industry ignored their customers’ pet peeves for decades knowing that there was little alternative. UBER was able to tap into and address these customer issues and meet customer needs in a superior way.

Coca-Cola, after conducting an in-depth customer experience survey, wrote to their business customers. The letter contained three key points: 1) We have listened to your feedback; 2) Given limited resources these are the top five things we will be focussing on improving and why; 3) We look forward to a continued relationship with you and will carry this out regularly in order to continually ensure we are meeting your business needs.

This allowed them to be held accountable by their customers whilst honouring the fact that without them, Coke would not be viable in that market segment. This transformed their supplier/ consumer relationship into a partnership, generating much goodwill.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 31st, 2016 at 12:32 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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